Italy believes that free and fair elections must take place in crisis-hit Venezuela to resolve the standoff between leftist president Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, populist premier Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday.
"We believe that in this phase the international community must press for free and democratic elections," Conte told reporters during a visit to Milan.
"When there are crises of this kind we do not think it opportune to hastily recognise leaders who have not gone through an electoral process," he said.
"That absolutely does not mean, as some have misunderstood, that we are supporting Maduro," he stated.
Conte warned against "interference" in Venezuela, saying this would not help stabilise the country and could cause rifts among other nations.
Italy supported a joint declaration by the European Union on 26 January warning Maduro it would recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as president if Maduro failed to call an election soon.
Guaido, the elected leader of the opposition-held National Assembly, declared himself the interim president on 23 January after Maduro was sworn in for a second term earlier this month following polls marred by an opposition boycott and allegations of vote-rigging which triggered large protests in Venezuela.